Back in October of last year, we posted a blog concerning a Federal Bill, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which Democrats in the Senate were trying to push through the Congress. Regrettably, due to the recent madness and polarization of the Congress, nothing was ever brought to the floor for a vote. Fortunately, New York City and its elected representatives have heeded the call of pregnant women from all across the City who have been unfairly denied accommodations, in an effort to ease the stresses of their pregnancy while working.
Last week, the New York City Council unanimously passed their own version of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill that ensures that the current protections afforded to disabled workers extend to pregnant workers as well, including the right to reasonable accommodation to ensure their ability to comfortably and continuously work through their pregnancies. The bill expands the New York City’s Human Rights Law, which is already one of the most expansive in the country.
What this bill, if not vetoed, will eventually do is treat pregnancy as if it were a disability under the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). Under the NYCHRL, a disability is defined as physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment or record of such impairment. Therefore, an employer would be required to reasonably accommodate a pregnant woman, so long as that accommodation is not unduly burdensome on the employer.
New York City employers will be required to provide reasonable accommodations for specific pregnancy related needs such as, childbirth, or a related medical condition associated with the pregnancy. Examples of these accommodations may include assistance with manual labor, water or rest breaks, and a period of recovery from childbirth. Employers will also be required to provide pregnant workers with a written notice of their rights.
In the event that an employer fails to grants these rights to pregnant employees, aggrieved pregnant workers will be allowed to bring actions for damages under the NYCHRL, which can include back-pay, front-pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, and other remedies such as requiring a change in the employer’s practices.
In enacting legislation to better protect these workers, New York City joins just a handful of cities from states that have passed comparable legislation since 2000, which include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas – yet no protection has been provided for pregnant workers in the rest of the country.
As always, if you believe you or your family member was and/or has been discriminated against in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the employment discrimination attorneys at the Law Office of Risman & Risman, P.C. at(212) 233-6400 or contact us online.